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Iowa State Legislators Asked to Protect Family Caregivers

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Every day, 317,000 Iowans provide care for older parents, spouses and other loved ones who need help. (
Every day, 317,000 Iowans provide care for older parents, spouses and other loved ones who need help. (
February 7, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa Senate committee hears a bill Wednesday that would ensure family caregivers have training to perform some types of medical needs when their loved ones are discharged from a hospital or rehabilitation center.

The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act would allow a patient to designate a person to carry out medical and physical tasks, such as giving medication or injections and safely moving the patient when needed.

Anthony Carroll, associate state director of advocacy for AARP Iowa, says on any given day, 317,000 Iowans are providing care for older parents, spouses and others who need help.

"Medical care, helping with groceries – a variety of tasks that family caregivers do to provide care for the loved one so they can continue to stay at home, rather than having to receive care in a nursing home, or assisted living, some other kind of institution," he explains.

Similar legislation has passed in more than three-dozen states.

AARP research shows that hospital readmission is reduced when caregivers receive more thorough instructions.

However, some hospitals object to CARE laws because of staff time constraints, and their concerns that a family caregiver could mishandle medical treatment.

Carroll says even when readmission occurs requiring another overnight stay, many caregivers still report receiving little – if any – training from health professionals when they leave.

"About 50 percent of the time, it's not happening as a practice,” he points out. “So, it's no cost to the Iowa taxpayers, but we believe it's the right thing to do. We're only one of 14 states who has not passed a similar type of legislation."

And as the number of older Americans with chronic conditions grows, Carroll says family caregivers have taken on medical tasks once provided only in hospitals, nursing homes or by homecare professionals.

"And this is really that next step to make sure, again, all Iowans have the option to designate a caregiver – and then if they designate a caregiver, that caregiver gets instructions at the hospital before they're sent home," he states.

An AARP study also confirms that caregiving can take its toll. When asked to rate their own health, almost 20 percent of caregivers described it as "fair to poor," which is double the rate of non-caregivers.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA